Saturday, September 1, 2012

The Cinderella Project: sample chapter

“Son? I need to tell you something.”
“Yeah, Dad?”
“Integrity is more important than pretty much anything. Even love.”
“Uh… what’s inte...griddy?”
“Integrity, son. It’s the mark of a true man to keep his promises no matter what. Be a man of his word. You learn that and you learn hard work and you’ll do just fine in life. And don’t let girls distract you from that.”
“But girls are gross, Dad.”
“Keep telling yourself that, kiddo. You’ll be alright.”

The first time I met Moiré De Lanthe, I was engaged to be married. Despite the rumors, even men have fairytales. This is my fairytale and it involves (as any good story does) the love of a woman.
It all started quite innocently. I was studying printouts of brainwave readings in the little corner of a sterile-looking room that I was allowed to call “my lab.” I suddenly noticed that I was alone and glanced up at the clock—8:36 p.m. The upshot to working a national holiday was that I had the lab completely to myself. I was surprised that my fiancée, Ella, hadn’t already phoned me twenty times to make sure I’d be home in time to make it to tonight’s fireworks. I was glad for the inattention, however; my eyes burned from staring at a computer screen for six hours and from reading Victorian romance novels for another five. Doctoral work was not supposed to involve this kind of eyestrain, was it?
I pretended to type out some final notes on what I’d found in the day’s research. It was precious little. Studies proceeding on schedule. Resolution still uncertain. Continue study.
Inevitably, however, I received a text from Ella and quickly texted back that I’d be wrapping things up soon. I carried on screening my notes for errors, finding none. Unfortunately, I found no signs of apparent progress either. I was no closer to resolving my issue than I had been when I started the research. Worse, there was a sense of something missing—something not easily nailed down.
And only three months to figure this all out. C’mon, Nick. Think.
The stated goal was to understand why supposedly “perfect love” could go tragically wrong. I wanted to know if there were obvious warning signs on the entrance ramp to the freeway of romance screaming, “Caution: dead end ahead!” The official literature always gave the usual, unsatisfying answers. I just knew there had to be something more, something deeper. My eyes drooped. There was no point in continuing tonight. I stood, stretched and walked over to The Chair for a moment’s rest to freshen me up before tonight’s festivities.
At the outset of my doctoral work, I’d salvaged an old dentist’s chair because of its odd, iconic coolness. It didn’t fit in my apartment, but in a stroke of genius, I realized it would work great in the lab. It became my official test chair. When I found it had… personality… I decided it needed a name. I wasn’t feeling terribly creative that day.
I settled into The Chair and carefully readied myself to lean back. Despite my repairs on The Chair, the old cautions were still there. Slowly, slowly I levered myself backwards until, at last, I was at just the right angle for comfort. Confident that it wasn’t going to eject me (again), I relaxed and peacefully closed my eyes. Five-minute siesta and then I’d head on out to Ella’s place to calm her down and watch the celebrations.
Nobody should ever unexpectedly surprise a grad student grabbing a nap. Before I knew it, I was on the floor in a heap, the knock on the door banging in my head. I was on my feet the next moment, regretting it as my head swam. I peered through my haze to see who else was crazy enough to have not escaped the psychology building before closing time. When my vision cleared, I noticed a slender young woman, a full head shorter than me. She looked like a supermodel ready to step into a board meeting of a Fortune 500 company. I suddenly felt awkwardly bedraggled and more than a little stupid knowing that there was no way she had missed my… accident. So much for some rest.
I turned on my best version of nonchalance as she stepped through the door. I paid no attention to her smooth, auburn hair pinned up just above the nape of her neck. I glanced at her ginger eyes only in furtive motions to eliminate any chance of staring. I utterly ignored the sweeping jawline beneath her perfect cheekbones. I was accustomed to having attractive women around—the campus was chock-full of them. No pretty face had ever distracted me from my love for Ella. I nearly jumped when my heart began to race as she started walking toward me.
Re-test element of surprise on response to stimuli.
“Doctor Cairn?” she asked politely.
“Please, just call me ‘Nick,’” I said calmly. “I’m not done with my dissertation yet.”
She smiled demurely. “Which is what I was hoping to hear. They told me I’d find you here; I’m sorry I had to come so late. And on a holiday no less.”
“It’s no problem. I was just about to wrap up for the night, though. Can I help you with something?”
“I’m your new undergraduate assistant.” She extended her hand.
I blinked and shook her hand. I hadn’t had an undergrad assistant in thirteen months, now. There were reasons for that.
“I… think you’re mistaken”—and I glanced at her ring finger—“Miss….”
“Moiré. De Lanthe, if you need to know for your records, but Moiré’s fine with me.”
“Well, yes, Miss De Lanthe—Moiré, sorry. But if you’re looking for an internship, I think you’ve come to the wrong place.”
“Then you’re not the one writing a dissertation entitled, ‘Human interrelations in romantic settings and neurophysical responses to prescribed stimuli’?” She held her gaze on me, neutral and steady. This woman obviously had at least some idea of what she was getting herself into.
I nodded. “Yes, that would be me. But are you certain I’m the one you want to be talking to?”
She gave me a thin, almost mocking grin and I made a mental note of my reaction. Heart rate increased in response to newcomer’s smile.
“I asked specifically to work with you.”
That got my eyebrows up. “You realize that the pay is just this side of nothing, right?”
She nodded.
“You also realize the hours are often long and that some of what we’re doing needs to be done very clinically in order to avoid charges of sexual assault, yes?”
She nodded again.
“Were you informed that you’re expected to study a large body of literature, listen to hours of romantic music and watch several days’ worth of romantic films as part of core research?”
She indicated she was aware.
“You are also aware that you’ll be on the front lines of some of the most bitter tales of failed relationships you’re ever likely to hear?”
A nod.
And you know that you’re not going to get any of the credit for this beyond, possibly, a small line item on a résumé and whatever experience you can garner, correct?”
She nodded again, more eagerly than I’d expect.
“You… really seem excited about this.”
Her smile widened. “Yes, I am. You’re the only one in your field doing anything like this at this school. In this state, actually. I was hoping to find a project that would stand out from the pack. Yours was by far the most interesting of the list.”
“Flattered, really,” I said dryly. I knew what the other projects on the list were.
She laughed lightly. I ignored my elevated pulse count. I wasn’t about to let myself end up as my own test subject. It was definitely time to get back to Ella. She’d be sure to cool me down.
“But like I said,” I said, managing a welcoming smile, “I’m wrapping up for the night. I’ve got the usual holiday plans. I’m sorry I can’t stay and chat more.”
“When do I start?” She moved closer and every hair on my neck stood up.
“A-are you taking any classes this summer?”
She nodded. “Psych two-forty, P.E. two-ten and P.A.S one-twelve.”
I raised an eyebrow.
“P.A.S.—Plant and Animal Sciences—one-twelve. It’s a floral design class,” she said.
“I see.” She was learning floral design. If I did hire this Moiré woman, I’d have to be sure not to discuss my impending wedding around her. Who knew what mayhem might ensue if she and Ella got together?
“Well, with Psych two-forty, you’ll be busy Monday through Friday for at least a couple hours a day. PE is never taxing. I’m… not sure how much time you’ll spend with your flowers, but if you’re going to work under me, I expect at least a twenty-hour week. I typically do six hours a day on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, with an hour or two on Tuesday or Thursday.”
The clock read 8:40. Ella would be fuming at my tardiness. Just to get rid of the underclasswoman I said, “Show up here Friday if you really want this. Think you can handle that?”
She nodded once and shook my hand again. “It’ll be a privilege to work with you. I’ll see Friday afternoon at three-o-clock, right after one-twelve.”
“Right after one-twelve,” I agreed. With a last, very professional smile she was out the door. Without thinking, I peeked around the doorjamb and watched her until she disappeared around the corner. I could still smell her perfume.
“Brother,” I huffed, collapsing into a chair behind me and rubbing at my face. “What just happened there?”
First, the very fact that I had found her so very attractive had been more than a little disturbing. I’d always maintained a professional, clinical detachment around women in my lab. I extended that detachment to women in general as soon as I’d gotten engaged. Dad would be proud of me; he’d always taught me that commitment (especially to a spouse) was a true mark of character. I would ignore my unexpected physiological response to this random girl; it was just a fluke.
Second, a research assistant didn’t fit into the budget (even if I’d told her not to expect much). The psychology department had been making vague “promises” about shelling out more funds for about eight months now. Their definition of “promise” was obviously not the one in my dictionary.
Money aside, I neither wanted nor needed help. I rather enjoyed conducting my work alone without the bother of coordinating with an assistant. My first assistant was useful, but he quit when he left school to work in his father’s business. The next assistant…. I’ll be nice by saying nothing.
Pulling my mind back to the present, I yawned and blinked my way through the nightly wrap-up process, counting and re-counting my reasons why it would be a bad idea to have a new research assistant. After three failures to convince myself to turn her down I settled on the argument that I just didn’t need her even if she thought she needed me. Other doctoral students would give her a better experience and more than just petty change for her troubles. She could take her silky hair, her gripping eyes, her perfect teeth, her… wait… was I being distracted by a memory of a girl I’d barely met? Okay. That was it, period. Whenever Miss De… Lynn? DeLund? I was more fatigued than I’d realized. De… Lanthe—that was it. When she returned, I’d explain that she had caught me off guard and that I hadn’t been thinking straight. I’d apologize for the confusion, suggest other grad students she could work for and send her off with a professional handshake. Moiré De Lanthe wouldn’t even be a memory by the same time next week.
For some reason, I didn’t want to believe that.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

We, the storymakers.

I was just reading an award winning blog, this morning--one I'd stumbled across serendipitously. I read it with an eye toward why someone decided to give that particular blog any special distinction. What I found was that it was very much like another blog from an old friend of mine: full of little anecdotes about daily living.

Both of these blogs captivate me. It helps that the writing style is polished, sure, and the entries are easy to read. What really makes these blogs valuable to me are the stories they tell.

These are stories of real people with real, ongoing problems. Sometimes life is great, other times... yeah. It's like daytime television, minus the sex, violence, and bizarre tangle of relationships (then again, I don't watch daytime television, so I'm just guessing based on the old stereotypes).

Humans are, on the whole, social creatures. We interact for all sorts of reasons. Our interactions bond us to one another, convey information, help us learn more about the world around us, and so forth. Often, the most socially successful are those who best articulate their side of things. I'm sure we all know someone whose stories we just love to sit and listen to--the people who can make even mundane occurrences into an adventure.

We, as humans, are storymakers. We're not all particularly good at it, but I think it's in our blood.

The stories that resonate with us are, at their heart, our own stories--either the ones we've lived (or are living), or the ones we'd like to live. We flock to the best storymakers not merely for entertainment, but because they tell us about ourselves in some way. They give us guidance and perspective on the human condition. On our condition. They let us know that we're not alone in the universe, and that our struggling doggy paddle in the sea of life's adversity is neither hopelessly unique nor impossible to overcome.

The lives of the women I've mentioned in this post aren't models of glamor or fame. They're both everyday women, wives and mothers, taking care of their families and trying to make the world a little better for it. Watching their struggles, their triumphs, tells us that great, overarching story I believe resides in the human heart:  that, in the end, even we, in our sometimes pathetic-seeming lives, still have a real shot at "happily ever after."

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Building Moiré

Of all the characters in The Cinderella Project, I've gotten more comments (and likes) for Moiré than for anyone else. That really doesn't surprise me because honestly, she was the most fun character to write--and I think that comes through very clearly in the text. In fact, Moiré  was such a fun and engaging character to write that she has become a standard archetype for other of my female characters. That means I'll have to be careful not to recycle her too much. But hey, if it ain't broke...

Moiré, like Nick and Ella, came from a less-than-ideal home situation. That's a very common thing these days, and I think people will be able to relate to her (and the others) as a result. Rather than take Nick's approach to dealing with the skeletons in the closet of childhood, Moiré simply attacks life with a joie de vivre and wit that really is infectious. There were times I'd finish writing scenes with her and think, "Dang, if I were still single, and fictional..." She's the kind of person people like to be around because she makes them feel better about life, the universe and everything.

Not surprisingly, Nick finds himself inadvertently interested in her spunk and charm, especially since her work as his research assistant means they get to spend quite a bit of time with one another. Unfortunately, this is a real problem for Nick. Moiré, being the wonderful girl she is, actually becomes the major point of conflict for our intrepid Prince Charming--she turns out to be much, much more desirable in almost every way than Nick's "Cinderella."

So what's a guy to do?

Making Moiré work as an enjoyable character was easier than I thought--when it actually worked. There were a few struggles up front, but once I found her voice, it was just like the saying, "Writing is easy: you just sit at the keyboard and open a vein." When the real Moiré finally came on stage, she made it easier for me to find that vein simply because of who she was. Her carefree attitude meant that I could more easily "go with the flow" of her character. Writing Moiré was not so much a matter of crafting a character as simply turning an existing person lose on my pages, and hanging on for the ride.

It was a great ride.

I think the most winning point of The Cinderella Project is the ongoing chemistry between Nick and Moiré. Putting them together was such a natural thing, and I think the audience will agree with that. There's every reason in the world to want them to get together.

But Nick's too good to break his promises. And in the end, he never does go back on his word.

So what happens to our darling Miss Moiré? I'll leave that to the book to reveal. I think you'll like it, though. I know I did.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Building Ella

Ella... what to even say about her? Making a villain is an interesting task because it's far too easy to get into setting up the proverbial "straw man" character. Ella sometimes toes that line closely. Making her the kind of person a reader would "love to hate" didn't take a whole ton of thought in the early drafts, but that bothered me. I kept going back and asking myself, "If she's really this brainless, antagonizing bimbo, then what in the world attracted Nick to her in the first place? And why on Earth is he still with her?"

Nick's noble "I'm keeping my promises" thing only carried it so far. It works as a plot device, and it's really one of Nick's prime strengths--but he's not an idiot, and he's not a glutton for punishment. In the end, the only good solution was to make some real changes to change Ella.

Forming the "new and improved" Ella only required a quick trip to the Wizard of Oz to get a basic heart and brain for her. In fact, in her revised form, Ella actually retains some initial sweetness and charm. She also picked up some clever subtlety that she uses quite effectively against her poor fiancé. I liked that, and finally, that nagging voice in the back of my head that told me, "She doesn't work for smart men" went quiet, and I found my zen with regards to  Ella.

Ella is a primadonna if nothing else, and a natural actress. Though I don't dwell on her acting abilities very much in the story, she really did fleece poor Nick and seized his heart with barely an effort. In her angelic guise, she really is the perfect "Cinderella"-- phenomenally attractive in every way. Nick loved her wit, her intelligence, and her charm. Her looks were a pretty nice bonus as well, and Ella knew that.

When the story opens, we're a couple of months into the actual engagement between Cinderella and her prince, and--secure in her capture--she feels safe in taking off her mask a little more each day. Nick finds this increasingly disturbing, of course, but he's aware that marriage requires work and maintenance to make it happy and lasting, and he's not so naive as to expect endless, honeymoon-style bliss every moment of every day. Because of that, he's willing to be appropriately flexible and forgiving. Still, he hopes that Ella will shape up once the knot is tied. Just the same, Ella's antics really touch off some deep-seated warning bells in our hero.

Ella is modeled on your basic abuser, and frankly, I never did like her character. That was the point. Originally, however, Nick's medieval fiancée was actually quite a nice lady--one you would actually hope would marry the handsome prince. I'm still not exactly sure why I chose to remake her in the image of a demon, but, for the purposes of the story, it worked.

I don't think I'll ever likely do another "Ella" character--at least not in such a substantial role as I have her in for The Cinderella Project. I have wondered, from time to time, if  The Cinderella Project were a movie, who would I cast in the role of Ella? I'm still not sure, to be honest, but it would be fun to figure that out one of these days. I almost want to say "Reese Whitherspoon," but I'd hate to see her play a jerk.

Oh well.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Building Nick.

Nicholas Cairn is the central character in The Cinderella Project, and, as such, received the most attention. Building Nick started out fairly simple, but took some interesting turns later on. The rudimentary goal was to build "the perfect guy," as it were--someone a female audience would fall in love with. I thought briefly about making him sparkly and undead, but that had already been done. I decided to walk on the wild side instead and make him a plain vanilla white boy with no spectacular powers or crazy history. He was just a doctoral student.

In fact, Nick actually didn't even start out in the 21st Century. In his original form, he was an actual prince (like, son of a king and a queen) in a fantasy fiction setting. He was still engaged, and he still had something for Moiré, but Ella was someone else entirely (poor girl--she got totally shafted by the transition to modern day).

When I found myself embroiled in an online writing contest with rules that didn't really permit a fantasy-fic setting, I brought Nick forward a few centuries, and worked on the "modern Prince Charming" thing.

To craft the perfect man proved an interesting challenge. For starters, I initially overdid his sensitive side--the guy wasn't afraid to cry. In fact, he did it a little too often in the story, and my wise editor hit me in the face with a 2x4 and told me Nick needed to man up. So he did. The result was a better, stronger Nick that still maintained that sensitive side and wasn't emotionally deaf to women's needs.

I also needed Nick to be a strong character without having him be a jerk, and yet, flexible without having him be a pushover. That involved ongoing tweaks to give him just the right amount of spine without turning the pride meter too high.

Nick comes from a semi-failed marriage. In fact, the main reason his parents are still together is that his dad is a firm believer in keeping his word and maintaining his integrity. To that end, he has (more or less) honored the promises he made on his wedding day, even if he'd rather have gone the other way.

I've seen the way failed marriages can leave lasting impressions (or scars even), and Nick reflects this in his doctoral work. His goal is to pre-empt the failure of his impending marriage, and he hopes brain chemistry can provide appropriate red flags up front, in addition to all the ones we already know about (e.g. abusive partner, partner doesn't pay bills or is lazy, mutual lack of trust and respect, etc.). Whether Nick finds such signs is something I'll leave for the readers to discover.

Ultimately, though, Nick just wants to do what's right. He fully intends to live up to his marital vows, but he'd rather not feel trapped by them the way his parents do. Like most of us, he wants marriage to be the wonderful, fulfilling relationship it can and should be. He wants his children to grow up knowing that Mommy and Daddy love each other deeply, and are committed to marriage above self, and committed to the children. It's an old-fashioned model, maybe, but hey, it's the best one around when people actually choose to get it right.

Creating Nick allowed me to draw heavily upon my own dating experiences, and examine my history as a detached observer, instead of being "in the moment" as I had been. Nick's love life was considerably better than mine (up until I finally married), but still, his concerns and questions are very real, even if men don't always express them openly. I think men really do want to be devoted to a woman they can care for, and who they know will care for them in return. It's easy to overlook your partner's bad side as long as there's sufficient hope that their good parts will still win out in the end. Sometimes that happens, sometimes it doesn't.

Without spoiling the story too much, Nick does ultimately find love. The question you'll have to figure out is "Who does he finally find love with?"

Come August 30th, you can find out.


Sunday, July 29, 2012

One month--the countdown begins!

So here I am, just a month away from the official launch of The Cinderella Project. Can I mention just how thrilling that is? And can I say just how cool it is to read it on my Kindle (thanks again, Erika!)? There's a singular kind of satisfaction that comes from creating something, and then looking at it and thinking, "Wow. I really did that."

This blog has languished far too long, and I'll be working to rectify it, even as I work on my next novel (I'll save the hints for later). To that end, I'll post a series of posts on the creation of The Cinderella Project, and give the readers a bit of a "behind-the-scenes" peek at how it came together.

In the meantime, feel free to keep an eye on it on Goodreads. As any author does, I love reviews and ratings, so feel free to leave your thoughts!

Friday, May 11, 2012


Well, mostly. Just moments ago, I submitted my semi-final draft to my editor.  Right now, I want to turn on Queen's song "We are the champions," and wave an American flag while screaming about the feeling of liberation I feel at having this done!

Oh, this is wonderful! First novel on its way, and more to come.  This is a great moment for me. :)

Tuesday, May 8, 2012


On Sunday night, I made lasagna. I called it "faux lasagna" because I cheated: I used lightly grilled corn tortillas as a substitute for noodles. See, my wife and two of our kids deal with celiac (an original driver of the current "gluten-free" movement), so unless we get (or make) gluten-free noodles, we're out of luck for pasta dishes.

Corn tortillas, thankfully, are gluten-free, and I figured, "Well, why not give it a try?"

I've never made lasagna alone, before. This was a new adventure for me. I did a bit of internet research for general ideas, but for the most part I just relied on my own "culinary engineering" skills, developed from years of feeding myself during bachelorhood.

The result? Everyone asked for seconds. It was awesome.

What does this have to do with writing? Well, not much on the surface, but if you dig a bit deeper, my making lasagna is very much like being a first time author: I've never really done this before.  And yet, I had the skills from the past to actually make a go of it.  Have I published? Sure. Self published, but it was a "print on demand" set up that charged ridiculous rates, and I went into it with no intent to ever make money off it--it was just a nice souvenir to put on my bookshelf and give to a few friends and family members.

This time, though, is for real.  No more microwave burrito writing, this is a full-on family meal.  And you know what?  I do believe that after launching this book, readers will come back for more, the same way my wife and kids did with my lasagna.

I've learned a ton from this process, and grown in some really cool ways.  Just like the lasagna, I've found that alternatives exist for doing something the "right" way.  I tend to be "results oriented," and while I don't believe the ends always justify all means, I do believe that often, the final product matters more than how you reach it (unless you're Miley Cyrus, then it really is all about the climb; I like that song).

I would rather have used lasagna noodles for this, but it turned out great anyway, and now I have another option for the future.  Likewise, it's awesome when a huge publishing house picks you out of the slush pile and sells it to the masses, making you an overnight success. That may yet come.  But these days, there are so many alternatives for publishing, and regardless of who I publish with, The Cinderella Project is great fun to read.  It can sell itself (though I intend to help it along).

Maybe I'll try gluten-free calzones next time... hmm...

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Why do I want to author?

I suppose that's really a fair question to ask--if nothing else, it'd be nice that my wife knew, since she'll end up bearing some of the burden of the task. In fact, I dare say that most writers probably share their load with supporting family members and friends, each of whom pay some price for the success of the author, but may never get more than a mere nod in the acknowledgements.

But why write?  The field is immensely competitive. The new ease of self publishing venues virtually guarantees that the market will be flooded soon, if it's not already. Many (most?) of those authors will never get out of the "wannabe" realm. Many of them may not be good enough to get out of it anyway. That's not meant as a slam, but merely a likelihood.  In my observations, merely having your name on the cover of a book doesn't guarantee that you have any real skill, or that your book is actually worth reading.

That's pretty arrogant of me, I know, because with that there's the unspoken notion that somehow, I will be better than tens of thousands of "wannabes."  At risk of really sounding like a snob, however, I can say this: I believe I can write at least as well as several of the authors I've seen in print with a variety of publishers.

Of course, embracing hubris is a quick way to find oneself getting smacked in the face by great reminders of one's own nothingness; life has a way of putting us in our place.  And yet, I'm not saying any of this to brag. I really don't think I'm "all that."

If I have any talent whatsoever, it was given me by a higher source.  Along with that talent has come years of opportunities to develop that talent through practice and the good old "trial and error" method--believe me, I've written some really awful stuff. Lots, and lots of really awful stuff--things I'm ashamed to even have my name on.

Do I have room to grow as an author? Absolutely.  However, I think I've become good enough to fly, and I've seen improvement even over the course of writing my first novel for publication (The Cinderella Project).

Combine that with a number of other circumstances that have pushed me down this road, and I'm finally taking chances I was previously too terrified to take. Seriously, it's 100 times easier to support a family as an engineer than as a burgeoning author.  It's a snap to just punch a clock for a "9-to-5" and be able to expect a decent paycheck every other week.  I'd like to keep my day job, thanks, at least for a while.

The odds are stacked hugely against me.  I'm  a tiny, nameless fish in a massive and growing sea of literature, and it may well require a miracle to ever make enough money off writing that I could pay my bills and care for my family from this endeavour.

And yet, I'm willing to try, even knowing that it's going to be a long, hard road that's far more likely to end in failure and obscurity than in fortune and fame (really, I'm fine with just making ends meet and having a little to spare; it's nice to have some extra cash to help people who could use it).

I'm writing because I feel I'm ready for it, and because I feel called to it, even if that seems like a silly thing to say.

Somehow, I really do believe I've got a shot at this.  My support network is pretty amazing. :)

Learning curves

Life is all about learning, of course.  I got a chance to get some life lessons just yesterday as I ventured out to see what it would take to get someone to accept my book for sales.  Considering the sheer volume of new authors and new titles that are pumped into the literary stream each year--especially now that it's ridiculously easy to self-publish--I wasn't surprised that people weren't jumping up and down to represent me.

I started out with a local library.  It's in a town of about 100,000--not too big, but bigger than my immediate stomping grounds.  Likewise, the library that services that town is about five times the size of the one just down the street from me. And that might be an understatement. Suffice it to say, the library recently hosted no less than Rick Riordan, author of the famed "Percy Jackson" series; they typically host events that pull in several hundred people. Small change compared to "big" libraries (county systems, etc.), but it's enough that the library turns away anyone not represented by "The Big 6" publishing houses (e.g. Random House, Simon and Schuster, etc.) or one of their subsidaries.

Considering that Breezy Reads is anything but "The Big 6," well... at least the lady was polite with me (and very friendly, actually) when she turned me down flat.

I learned something from my meeting with the library events director: who your publisher is may be even more important than who you, the author are, especially if you're a first-timer.  I think I'm safe in assuming that the truly "big name" authors probably wouldn't be visiting a local library to request an event anyway--they're too busy, and that's what agents and publicists are for.

Speaking of publicists, that brings me to the next stop of yesterday's short quest: a university bookstore.  It just so happened that I graduated from this university, and I thought it would be cool to be selling my book (eventually "books") there. In reflection, my encounter could easily be written into a book.

I approached the information desk, where a college-aged blond and a large, older gentleman occupied the zone with what looked very much like disinterest.  The blonde was closest, so I talked to her first.

"Hi," I said.  "I'm interested in learning how you choose which books end up on your shelves. Who would I talk to?"

She looked at me as if I were an unexpected line item that just appeared on her "to-do" list. Hooray for "service with a smile."

"You'd have to talk to him," she said, not bothering to point to the guy sitting next to her. He didn't so much as look up from what he was doing; I was pretty sure he was aware of my presence anyway.

"Okay thanks."

I took a step to my right, and addressed the portly man. Though I was certain he knew what I wanted, I repeated my question for politeness.

His enthusiasm couldn't have motivated a fire to burn a dry field. "We mostly get our material from catalogs." He held one up. "I read through about four hundred of these each season. There are three seasons. We also get recommendations from publicists."

He went on to tell me that the economy brought about a policy change that effectively cuts self-publishers (e.g. those who use CreateSpace and similar venues) out of the loop for consideration, let alone sales. He mentioned a couple of times that problems can arise when they buy from entities that don't have a return policy, which is a common ailment among self-pub authors these days.

To his credit, he was nice enough to throw me a bone. "If you'd like your book to receive special consideration, you can bring it to us, and we'll look at it."  Reading between the lines, "Please, I'm overwhelmed by the pile of work behind me, and I really don't have time to deal with some punk kid printing from a fly-by-night operation."

Honestly, I can't say that I blame him. Breezy Reads is small by age and be design; I could be any one of tens of thousands of other "no-names" out there.

But this is just the beginning.  Time, effort, and a healthy dose of Divine intervention tend to be game changers.  Here's hoping for that Divine intervention, eh?

And thus begins my journey into the land of the "actually published," as opposed to my previous two works, which were self-pubbed through an online venue that charged ridiculous rates (which is why I knew I'd never sell more than a handful of books; but that was okay--I was doing it simply for fun anyway).

More anecdotes to come, certainly.  Much legwork still to be done.